SDT hearings taking too long

SDT hearings taking too long

Although cases brought before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) went down from 140 in 2015 to 133 last year, figures show that hearings now take twice as long on average, with two cases lasting ten days.

Cases disposed of in half a day dropped from 28 to 18 in number. On the other hand, those taking a whole day to conclude rose by 61 percent, up from 45 to 74. Two-day hearings doubled in number from 13 to 26, as did four-day hearings, from 3 to 6. The longest case recorded took 10 days. In comparison, only a single case was heard over 11 days in 2015, and two more lasted 16 days.

The tribunal’s latest annual report concluded that judges eventually sat for a total of 260 days in 2016, up from 185 in 2015 – an increase of 75.

The increase in the length of proceedings paralleled an increase in associated costs. 2016’s approved budget would have seen a rise in gross expenditure of more that £800,000, up from £2,098,733 to £2,908,243.

The figure includes a contingency of £55,000 and a £45,784 provision just to deal with the ABS appeals.

Due to an anticipation of cases rising in number and complexity, the SDT budgeted remuneration increases of £143,909 for solicitor members, with £50,530 for lay members. Staff costs were expected to go up by £472,471, including national insurance, pensions and benefits. This brings the cost up from £622,815 in 2015 to £1,095,286 in 2016.

The SDT now projects an estimated overall spend of £2,416,250, subject to a final audit that is expected to be published in June. This is an increase of £317,517 since 2015.

Of the final total, actual staff costs now stand at £701,417, which includes a wage of £236,685 for five new employees (working out at roughly £47,337 each).

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